Weekend bike adventures in Toronto this spring

March 29, 2017

By Nicole Gottselig

Spring and summer offer the best weather for visitors looking to experience Toronto on two wheels. Even if you don’t own a bike, cyclists can borrow one for $7 per day from Bike Share Toronto and peddle off the well-paved tourist path for a truly local experience. From food and craft beer, to art and a side of nature, here are 10 ‘hoods to explore over a weekend in the Big Smoke. [Photo courtesy of the Distillery Historic District]

Weekend bike adventures in Toronto this spring

Day one

9 a.m. to lunch: Market breakfast, history and a slice of Mexico in Old Toronto

Choose a pass type and pick up your bike from the location nearest to your accommodation. Start early and make your way into Old Toronto for breakfast at St. Lawrence Market. Hit up the Carousel Bakery for the iconic peameal bacon sandwich (a local and celeb chef fave), or a Montreal-style bagel slathered in cream cheese from St. Urbain Bagel Bar.

Once you’ve had enough grazing, cruise to The Distillery Historic District where modern meets old-world European charm. Stroll the cobblestone streets, gaze at industrial architecture and lose track of time in more than 80 unique shops and boutiques. Tip: music lovers visiting in the summer may want to stay awhile for the Music Summer Series.

Before leaving, refuel on the spacious El Catrin patio with wood beams, gorgeous brick and shiny circular industrial light fixtures as your backdrop. Start with some killer guac and a side of crickets (if you dare) before moving on to the crispy cod tacos and a michelada (aka Mexican Caesar).

1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Lakeside views, cupcakes in The Beaches and pints on The Danforth

If you haven’t been swallowed up by The Distillery’s charm, hop back on your bike and head towards the Waterfront Trail. Head east for lakeside views and gradually make your way into The Beaches neighbourhood. The further you go down the trail, the more you’ll feel like you’ve entered a lush lakeside town miles away from the city.

Make a pit stop on the grass and soak up the sun before making your way north to Queen Street East (between Coxwell Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue). Stroll the strip and absorb the  cozy vibe over bites of rich vegan vanilla “buttercream” cupcakes on the patio at Tori’s Bakeshop, a top pick for locals.

When you’ve had enough, cruise through edgy Queen East until Woodbine and head towards The Danforth, Toronto’s Greektown. Stop in at local dive bar favourite The Only Cafe. Grab a pint of one the 24 beers on tap before heading back to the sprawling back patio to savour slow sips and easy conversations with the locals. Before one drink leads to three, hop back to Bloor and head west towards the Sherbourne bike path and south towards the water.

5 p.m. to late: Craft brew, downtown views and West Queen West

Once you hit the waterfront bike path, keep riding west. Hit up the Amsterdam BrewHouse on Lake Ontario for a wood oven pizza, more craft beer and some of the best views of Toronto’s bustling harbour. Head back to the waterfront and go west for bird’s eye views of the downtown core and the CN Tower in all its glory. Keep going until you run out of steam or the nearest parking dock.

Top off the night by making your way on foot, by taxi, Uber or streetcar to one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, according to Vogue: West Queen West. Stay awhile at culture hotel hubs Gladstone and Drake Hotel for a not-your-average night of imbibing, dining and, maybe, dancing.

Day two

9 a.m. to lunch: Graffiti and architecture gazing in the Entertainment District and the Kensington kaleidoscope

Start off in the Entertainment District at  Graffiti Alley for a kilometre of high-calibre graffiti, running west from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street (identifiable as the backdrop for Rick Mercer’s infamous rants). Take your time biking and roaming through the heart of downtown for views of architectural heavy hitters like the TD Centre, Roy Thomson Hall (go inside if it’s open for a rare perspective of the city’s skyscrapers), TIFF Bell Lightbox and the spaceship-like  Art Gallery of Ontario.

Next, poke through the city’s largest Chinatown (there are several) around Dundas and Spadina before entering Toronto’s most unique neighbourhood: Kensington Market. From baskets of plump produce spilling out into the streets to fresh juice stalls, fishmongers, vintage boutiques, cozy cafes and secret bars, the “Market” is a literal feast of the senses. Take plenty of time here to stroll, observe and linger over a very long leisurely patio lunch at one of the many street-facing restaurants to soak it all in.

1 p.m. to 6.p.m.: Art crawl on Dupont and craft beer in The Junction

If you can tear yourself away from the Kensington kaleidoscope, head north to the Wallace Emerson neighbourhood and Dupont Street (between Dovercourt and running past Landsdowne) for an afternoon gallery hop. Gallerists galore have resurrected industrial spaces into unique gallery spaces - some of the structures are art unto themselves. Once you’ve had your art fix, keep heading west to The Junction, which some would argue is a contender to hip West Queen West.

If you’ve ever been to Portland, Oregon, you may feel a similar vibe on the street between Dundas West and Keele Street - eclectic, fiercely independent and a tad quirky. Grab a fresh juice to stroll with while browsing the local wares. Time permitting, pop into the slick exposed-brick beer hall at the Indie Ale House for a signature craft brew.

6 p.m. until late: A slice of Polynesia in Parkdale and bar hop on the Ossington Strip

Before the sun starts to set, peddle towards the 400-acre High Park for lush green views in your peripheral vision as you make your way into Parkdale. Stop at The Shameful Tiki Room and enjoy the 1960s Polynesian-vibe with a red-lit rattan backdrop while you try the Blue Hawaii cocktail and Maui coconut shrimp.

Make your way through Parkdale a few more blocks until you hit the parking dock at Queen and Ossington. Cap off the weekend restaurant and bar hopping on the Ossington strip, one the city’s most coveted spots for unique watering holes cranking out ‘90s hip-hop beats like Baby Huey or a white-picketed fence patio session at Bellwoods Brewery.

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